August 19, 2020
Dear Praying Partners,
Rachel and I appreciate your weekly support in prayer for our prodigals and for revival. Pray with confidence because God hears, with patience because his timing is best, and with joy, because our God is able.
C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” Revelation twenty-one reminds us that all the things which produce sadness and sorrow will be removed in the heavenly realm, and there will be no tears, no mourning, no crying, no pain, no death (Rev 21:4). What a joyful place! The apostle Paul wrote about joy long before C.S. Lewis, and they seem to be in agreement. Joy is the serious business of heaven, and Paul says it should also be a trademark of those on their way to heaven. Notice his short statement to the Thessalonian believers in chapter five, “Rejoice always” (1 Thes 5:16).
Joy is an attribute of God. In Nehemiah we read, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:10). I always thought that this meant the joy that God gives is our strength, and this is true. Yet by taking a closer look, we see that it means more. It refers to the joy that God possesses and experiences—His joy is our strength. Nehemiah teaches us that joy is a communicable attribute of God; that is to say, it can be lavishly shared. Since He is the originator of it, the actual source, he is able to share it, and it will become to us our strength.
The word rejoice in our text, according to Strongs Dictionary, means, “to be 'full of cheer' that is, calmly happy or well off; impersonal especially as a salutation (on meeting or parting), be well: - farewell, be glad, Godspeed, greeting, hail, joy (-fully), rejoice.” This phrase “calmly happy or well off” gives us a very pleasant word picture. It reaches deep into our Christian roots and whispers of the restful spirit that is based on our link with God and is His work in our hearts.
In order to rejoice always, one must first be in relationship with God. The Lord Jesus said, “Rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (Lk. 10:20). It also requires living in fellowship with God and focusing on what He is doing. Paul said, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). True rejoicing is living by faith, and being open for God to pour it into you in abundance. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:13).
The fact that Paul needs to give the exhortation to always be joyful is proof that it is easy to live without rejoicing. While our security in God cannot be threatened, our closeness, our fellowship, our enjoyment of Him can. Anything that disrupts that nearness will be a hindrance to our joy in the Lord. This is why David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Ps 51:12). He had lost it and desired to have it back.
Joy is a choice and needs to be cultivated. Paul lists it second in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23). We cannot manufacture this quality by mere determination, but rather as we surrender to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to control our thoughts and behavior, it will be reproduced.
Joy is different from happiness. Our understanding of being happy is often based on the idea of pleasant and pleasurable circumstances that lead to feelings of positivity and cheerfulness. Happiness is good and desirable. We want to be happy, but with the trying circumstances of life, it is often like a whiff of smoke—vanishing just when you wrap your hands around it. If you are an A-type personality and stuck inside due to COVID-19, chances are you’re not waltzing around with a big bouncy smile. Or worse, if you have lost a loved one, you are likely feeling their loss keenly during this time of social distancing. If you are going through a serious or chronic illness, happiness is most often not your closest companion. But joy is different. Joy can be present despite these circumstances because we know that God makes no mistakes. Joy is possible because we have settled in our hearts that God has allowed these circumstances and He is with us in them. As we draw close to Him, He works in us and His purposes will be accomplished in and through us. Joy is the result of a close walk with Jesus. It means choosing to allow the Holy Spirit to bring it about despite the circumstance. May God enable us today to live out the 1 Thessalonians 5:16 command, “Rejoice always.”
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel Joyce